Six Ridiculous Questions: Jan Elizabeth Watson

The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.

1. Most offensive: Misusing a bidet, wearing white after Labor Day, or serving red wine with fish?

Easy—misusing a bidet. The bidet must be used very thoughtfully. You have to position it on top of your head at a rakish angle right before you hop on the back of Prince’s bike and go down by Old Man Johnson’s farm. Oh, wait, I thought you said misusing a beret. Never mind.

Raspberry Bidet?

Yes, but not the kind you buy in a secondhand store. You don’t know where that bidet has been.


2. What’s the least successful product McDonald’s could produce that you would secretly love, the McWhat? Discuss.

I’ve got something better than a McWhat: an Unhappy Meal. It’s a kit for writers that contains a few leaky pens, a rumpled napkin to write on, a brick of ramen for sustenance, and a little candy heart that says “I love you.” The little heart is what keeps you from giving up.


3. What would life be like as a Q-Tip?

 Well, there would be a whole lot of swabbing going on, and I don’t think I’d like that. Swabbing isn’t a good-sounding word. Too gynecological. Or maybe nautical, if you’re swabbing a deck. (Pro tip: If someone ever asks you to swab a deck with a Q-tip, they really don’t like you at all.)


4. Say you were god for a day, like a literal day, not a biblical figurative day but a regular twenty-four-hour Earth day, what would you do?

I know one thing I wouldn’t do: I wouldn’t answer any prayers. Can you imagine all those prayers coming in? It would be worse than an endless stream of needy emails. Delete, delete, delete. Ignore, ignore, ignore. If I were God for a day, I would say, “Ha-ha… I don’t have to answer a goddamned thing!” And it would be glorious.

Would you chastise yourself for taking your own name in vain?

Of course, not! I’d just chastise everyone else who did it. Especially little Catholic schoolchildren who are terrified of me. Straight into the eternal hell-fire for them.

A god of judgment and wrath. Very Old Testament. Evangelical America would love you. But I’m not convinced you’d love them. Let’s get creative, here. Name seven plagues you’d visit upon America’s millions of capitalist “Christians” and no-stealy from Exodus. You’re God now. Go.

No-stealy from Exodus? What fun is that? Seriously, the only exodus I know about is that mass exodus that took place that time I followed a headlining big-name writer at a reading. When it was my turn to read, potential book-buyers ran for the exits like as though famine and locusts were nipping at their heels. If I had to be God, which isn’t something I aspire to, I’d like to be more of a Jewish-type God. I’m not Jewish, but a Jewish God sounds respectable, and I’d get to come up with fun, arbitrary-seeming laws like Don’t touch scissors on a Saturday or else. Just “or else.” The God of Eternal “Or Else” Threats, that’s me.

As for seven plagues for millions of capitalist Christians… goodness, can’t I just make them go to a 1970’s fetish club seven nights a week? They’d be gnashing their teeth at first, but by night four they’d all be getting paddled to Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell” and having a whale of a time. A real win-win for everybody!


5. If you were hanging out in front of a 7-11 and an evil wizard pulled up in his Dodge Charger, got out and said he was going to turn you into a cartoon character, but was willing to allow you to lobby for your desired result—OK, I guess he’s not the epitome of evil, but he’s still really bad (permanently arched brows, a truly disconcerting beard, perhaps a demonic familiar or an ill-tempered cat, and the Charger, obviously)—which character would you choose?

When I was a kid, there was this cartoon in syndication called The Mighty Heroes; I think they only had about 20 episodes. The show featured characters like Strong Man, Baby Man, Cuckoo Man, and Rope Man. Rope Man terrified me for some reason, so I’d want to be Rope Man because confronting your fears isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to become your fears. You have to say, “I ain’t afraid of this rope because I am the rope” and then lasso yourself around a few times just to underscore your point.

Did you just make this up? This show sounds almost like a satire of a real show though that wouldn’t be the first time satire and reality have conspired to confuse me. Prove The Mighty Heroes was a real show by filling us in on the villains, which as we all know are almost always the most interesting part of any children’s show.

If I’d been making this up, I’d have concocted a better superhero than Rope Man. Like a guy who can eat ice cubes and then instantaneously shoot Sno-Cones out of his butt. Something the kiddos would like, you know? You can find a couple of Mighty Heroes clips on YouTube; it was a real thing! Diaper Man was another of the superheroes, and he was a baby who, as you can imagine, wore a diaper. I guess his arch-nemesis was Continence Man, who was always showing him up with his superior skills.

OK, I’m pretty sure you made up Continence Man. Can you remember any of the real villains? This show is sounding pretty tame thus far.

I feel like my sincerity is under fire. I’m uncomfortable with this line of questioning. I’m about to sashay out of here with an injured expression and my ass in a sling. Actually, no. This chair is comfortable and I like where I am. If you want real villains, look at the world around you. No, not over here. Over there.


6. Is anyone sane? I mean, really?

Kurosawa wrote, “In a mad world, only the mad are sane.” So, by that logic, we’re all Cuckoo Man right about now. I hope that answers the question.



Jan Elizabeth Watson is the author of Asta in the Wings (Tin House Books) and What Has Become of You (Penguin Random House). She is slowly at work on a third novel and a series of autobiographical essays. She lives in Maine and doesn’t like lobster one bit.

Kurt Baumeister has written for Salon, Electric Literature, Guernica, The Weeklings, Entropy, The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, The Good Men Project, and others. His debut novel, a satirical thriller entitled Pax Americana, was published by Stalking Horse Press in 2017. He is currently at work on a novel, The Book of Loki, and a hybrid collection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry entitled Superman, the Seven Gods of Death, and the Need for Clean, Romantic Poetry. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at

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